Moral Leadership Ponderings

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In recent days the topic of moral leadership has been dominating my conversations. The college I work at has taken an aggressive stance on the situation occurring at the US and Mexico border and this “moral leadership” was the said driving purpose for our stance.

I’m still working my way through understanding and comprehending but thought it’d be helpful to write it down. In doing so, I thought I’d also share it with you, and perhaps it’ll help you, my few dedicated readers, being to think about and define for yourself what moral leadership is.

I asked several colleagues and friends to give me a definition of moral leadership off the top of their heads. I received a myriad of responses. Everything from being an “ethical leader” to a “progressive leader”. I also got responses that referred to not only the leadership style but included the actions, practices and lifestyles of a leader. In a few other conversations it was defined as being a respectful and responsible leader to those one directly leads while others mentioned that the issues and situations a moral leader undertakes goes beyond the individual organization/group.

The plethora of responses varied more than I thought. No one person seemed to have the same definition.

Now, I’m not an expert on moral leadership, and only touched on it in a few of my courses during my graduate studies. But from my understanding I’ve gathered from studies and my recent conversations is that it is a combination of everything that I’ve read and heard and not just one thing. It’s not only being morally responsible and respectful of the global world and ones impact on it, but also responsible and respectful of the individuals you lead. It’s balancing personal morals, ethics and practices with those of the organization/group one leads with the global community. It’s building up rather than down and moving forwards through the failures. It’s another area that requires strict balance and  understanding. It requires an individual to acknowledge biases, strengths and weaknesses and comprehension of their organization/group. A moral leader does not need to be perfect, but rather responsible and accountable.

From my unofficial and amateur research I’ve briefly conducted, I conclude that there is no one good way to be a moral leader. But there are many poor ways to be one. (No, the irony is not lost on me).

It seems that when you claim to be a moral leader or practice moral leadership, you are claiming to be the ideal leader. The perfect balance of local and global issues, a balance with self bias and global thought, a level mind with personal vs organization agendas, a balance with communication and collaboration, etc.

Now, we all know that no one is everyone’s ideal leader and everyone is a far from perfect leader. So, I come to this conclusion: that moral leadership is an ethereal concept that we attempt to aspire to but as humans can never accomplish. It’s a goal for a type of leader to become and work towards.

These are just random thoughts buzzing around my noggin as I wrap my mind around “moral leadership” and current events on my campus. Hope you enjoyed traveling through my thoughts about moral leadership! 🙂

Until next time!

Peace, Love and Pandas!


Published by Brian

I am currently the Assistant Director of Student Life for Registered Student Organizations and Late-Night Programming at Michigan State University. After earning my B.A. from the University of Michigan-Flint, I entered the Student Affairs profession. After a few years in the field, I returned to school and earned my M.A. in Educational Leadership-Higher Education Student Affairs from Eastern Michigan University. In my spare time I blog about my thoughts and musings on current issues in higher education, student affairs, digital worlds, identity development and general life inspirations and observations. I also volunteer a lot for my fraternity and multiple regional and national professional associations.

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